The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted the official as saying, "Tillerson admitted the failure of the US efforts to denuclearize the DPRK [Democratic Republic of Korea] for 20 years and [the] end of Obama's policy of 'strategic patience' during his recent tour … Now Tillerson is repeating what Obama touted… until he left the White House."
Pyongyang fired four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan not long before Tillerson landed in Tokyo, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decrying the incident as "a very dangerous action."
The DPRK also tested a new "revolutionary" kind of high-thrust rocket engine while Tillerson was in China.
Trump has not yet put forth a cogent policy on North Korea, but following the rocket engine test he said that North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un was acting "very, very badly."
While visiting South Korea, Tillerson heavily implied that the US was willing to take military action against Pyongyang’s ongoing nuclear weapons and missile testing, saying, "All options are on the table." He also said the policy of "strategic patience" used by Obama was no more.
Pyongyang responded to these threats by saying they were prepared to reduce the US "to ashes" if Washington took preemptive action against them. The North was also perturbed by recent trilateral military drills with South Korea, the US and Japan, threatening "merciless, ultra-precision strikes" if their sovereignty was violated.
David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists, pointed out, "If you look at Tillerson's full statements, they were much more of a continuation of current policy than has been portrayed in the press, with an emphasis on expanding sanctions … you can try to squeeze North Korea with more sanctions and maybe slow its program, but it's hard to see how to stop it from moving ahead without diplomacy."
Despite Tillerson’s confrontational delivery, the ideas he’s espousing are pretty well in line with longstanding US policy.
The North Korean official said, "The nuclear force of the DPRK is the treasured sword of justice and the most reliable war deterrence to defend the socialist motherland and the life of its people … If the businessmen-turned-US authorities thought that they would frighten the DPRK, they would soon know that their method would not work."